Monday, February 1, 2010

Say what?

(First of all, I hope none of you got too attached to listening to the same music over and over again while reading my blog. I had to delete it. It was making me crazy.)

This post is dedicated to once lovely words and phrases that are now virtually meaningless through misuse or abuse. I have a lot and will stop when I get bored, which shouldn't be too long. Let's begin. Shall we?

Artisan: How many products do we see every day in every venue that someone has conveniently labeled "artisan" or "artisanal"? Lots, I tell you. When I used to hear that term, I envisioned something created by someone who has spent many years, perhaps in an apprenticeship to a master artisan, honing their craft until they can go forth and deliver to the world their finely crafted delights. Not so much any more. When Walmart and Cub now has an entire wall of "artisan" breads for which you can occasionally find coupons, you know the word is toast. No pun intended, but it worked out nicely. These Walmartisans no doubt trained for at least 30 minutes on pouring ingredients into a giant mixer and watching the dough get kneaded. Boo Walmartisans.

Cage Free: Last summer, many of you learned of my complete horror at learning of the practice for culling male chicks by sorting them and throwing them into a grinder while still alive. This led me to attempt to find more humanely produced eggs. Thinking I was doing some chickens a favor, I now opt for cage free eggs from chickens fed an organic (more on that later) diet. Cage free, ah. Chickens out in the sun and fresh air, pecking at the ground for insects, grubs and seed. Lovely. WRONG! Cage free now means giant warehouses with chickens pecking at the seed scattered on the cement floor of a warehouse- only marginally less cruel than cages. I'm told I need to find a local grower who raises chickens from eggs- no commercially produced pullets- and pastures the chickens. Instead of $3.49 a dozen for my cage free organic eggs, I can now expect to pay "slightly" more than that and feel better about myself and the chickens.

Hand Crafted: Slightly less skilled than artisans, in my mind, are hand crafters. Hand crafters have honed their skill at producing lovely items but are not professional artisans. Or whatever. This is my thought process we're visiting here. So, bear with me please. You can have delightful hand crafted scarves and sweaters, quilts and blankets. You get the drift. So, imagine my horror when I walk by Caribou Coffee to see a sign announcing the sale of hand crafted oatmeal. Yes. Oatmeal. If by hand crafted they mean tearing open a packet of instant oats, stirring in hot water, adding dried fruit and a little brown sugar, then I guess that redefines hand crafted and I am hand crafting my own breakfast about 2 days a week on oatmeal days. Pathetic.

Organic: I know there are standards set forth by the FDA on what defines organic, but do they need to allow giant corporations to ruin my idyllic vision of what organic farming is? I picture organic farmers like our friend Nancy, who bought some land in a mountain valley in Colorado, lived in a yurt, and slowly built up a thriving, but smallish, sustainable farm. These farmers, not necessarily Nancy, wake up at the shriek of dawn, slap some patchouli under their arms, throw on a tunic and some sandals and go work the earth until dusk, at which time they heat water on the wood burning stove, dump it into a tub and wash off the dirt with a sustainably harvested loofah. There are no suits involved, no marketing meetings, no quarterly profit reports. Yet, sadly the majority of organic produce comes from large, but chemical free, farms. Bummer.

Hand dyed: So, this one is specific to my life as a quilter. When I'm too lazy (or forbidden from- another story) to dye my own fabrics, I want to buy hand dyed fabrics from a hand crafter or even an artisan (but they better be that much better from an artisan). There is a lot of this stuff to be found. However, visit most quilt stores and they will tell you that the perfectly pressed, flawless 15 yard bolts of pretty fabrics lining the walls are hand dyed. To that I say "Rubbish!" When 10,000+ yards of identical fabrics are produced in a single color, that is not hand dyed. Perhaps a hand touched the fabric during the dying process in the textile mill and that qualifies it as hand dyed. However, not one of these manufacturers will show you images of the hand crafters and artisans trying to work 10,000 yards of pristine cotton through a dye bath. Why? Because they are big stinky liars, that's why.

Whole grain: Look at a loaf of good Walmartisan Seven Grain Bread. You can see probably 3 or 4 different actual grains- millet, wheat berry, oats, etc. You just have trust that the other 3 or 4 are in there, and probably are safe in doing so. It also isn't worth worrying about if there are 6 or 7 grains. Just eat it. It's good for you. However, look at a box of Multi-Grain Cheerios, made with "whole grain" and you'll see something else completely. There is not a shred of recognizable whole grain in that box. And, to make matters worse, the little puffed starch rings are created in different shades of beige to fool you into thinking that each one is made from a different whole grain. Don't be fooled. The dark brown one tastes just like the white one. Trust me. Now, don't get me wrong. They are tasty. They just aren't whole grain anything.

Natural: When I think of "natural" I envision eating vegetables fresh from the garden and wearing cotton clothing that I have sewn myself, from cotton I have grown and harvested in a sustainable fashion and spun into thread which I have woven into cloth. I envision my all natural face catching every sunrise and sunset at just the right angle each day in a way that could be captured in a photo that would say "this man is a wholesome, earth respecter whose rugged good looks are enhanced by the good food he takes in for nourishment, sunbeams and optimism." That is what natural meant. Now it is found on every processed food container and loudly proclaims "I was made from what was once a plant, a now unrecognizable plant, but a plant, nonetheless." There are even "all natural" labels on those little prepackaged meals that are not in the freezer section and not in a can. You know the ones. They sit suspiciously on the shelves near the soups and we wonder how they can stay fresh without refrigeration. All natural radiation, that's how. Sad.

8 comments:

Wahkonamama said...

Regarding the eggs: I don't know where in the Cities you live, but there are farm stores that sell the kind of eggs you're in search of. $2/dozen at Martie's Farm Service in St. Francis.

Agreed on the organics - I'm trying to shift my purchases to locals (even if they're not USDA certified) vs. corporations. It's disheartening to see so many food mega-corporations cashing in on organics when there are samll local growers trying to make a living. Even though I live out in the boonies and will have to drive in the city to do a pick up, I'm going to do the CSA thing this year.

Artisan schmartisan. I hate when the marketing people hijack the hippie territory.

suzieQ said...

Ahh MG, you've hit upon one of my huge pet peeves - "natural". I have some relatives that are big into the all natural thing. I swear they would eat crap out of a pig stye (even though you can't actually find a pig stye any more d/t hog confinements, but I digress)if some "expert" told them it was a good way to "detox" their body. Give me a break. People of planet Earth - please learn that the words "natural" and "safe" are not synonymous! Hemlock, radon, sunshine and pure grain alcohol are all natural and they can all kill you. Maybe if we labeled cocaine as "natural plant extracts" we could sell it at the co-op (and no, I'm not dissing the co-op). I must stop now, before I really get a rant going.

Mnmom said...

Beautifully done MG!!
You hit the nail on the head in so many ways. And I've been noticing these words too. Words that have lost all meaning completely. And I saw the hand-crafted oatmeal today. Like saying because they held the cup in front of the coffee machine, that my coffee is hand-crafted. Unless they are actually hand chopping the oats I don't want to hear about it.

Madame Leiderhosen said...

Very nice squelching of all those marketeering terms.

I consider materials only hand-dyed of I am shaking hands with the person responsible and their cuticles are permanently stained purple and they seem perpetually looking around for an over-boiling crockpot.

(When queried, I claim to be bi-craftual hodgepodger codger. "Artistian", my Great Aunt Finoula.)

lyralyric said...

michael--been a while. you've popped my blog cherry, under the influence of my big sis michelle. that probably grosses you out, considering i'm a she, but maybe curt is getting a little laugh out of that. anyway, thanks for the fascinating way you craft your blog. you're a true artisan with sculpting your messages. the content is wholesome, refreshing, and uncaged. it feels authentic, not processed with chemicals or radiation. i wonder if this is really good marketing on your part, or the real thing? hmmm?? i'll go with the realy thing!

水慧 said...

I do like ur article~!!!...................................................

v奎峰奎峰 said...

haha~ funny! thank you for your share~ ........................................

michaelg said...

Lyra??? Holy crap!